When it comes to using unfamiliar terminology, few home service contractors can outdo roofers. Many homeowners are intimidated by the use of technical jargon and afraid to ask questions, even though they’re entrusting the contractor with their money and their home. Homeowners who are prepared to talk shop with their roofer will have a better understanding of the roofing process and be better able to ask the right questions. With that in mind, we’d like to offer a handy list of important roofing terms for homeowners to consult before talking to a roofer:

Caulk: the act of applying a construction chemical along a joint or seam in a building in order to provide insulation, mitigate noise, and control water penetration; also a generic name for the material used. Caulk should not be used to plug up leaks.

Deck or decking: the surface or platform on which the roofing will be applied. Often made from oriented strand board, it is nailed to the trusses or the rafters.

Dormer: a window that projects upward from a sloping roof. Dormers often have their own roof and are used to create usable space in the roof of a home or building.

Fascia: a horizontal board or a band that runs horizontally along the roof’s eaves. It is positioned under the edge of the roof, and the gutter is attached to it. Fascia is especially prone to rot.

Flashing: strips of waterproof material used in areas where the roofing surface changes or is terminated, like where the roof meets a chimney or along the valley. Flashing prevents moisture from seeping into the ruptures created at those points. Flashing is usually the most difficult aspect of roof installation.

Laminated shingles: composite shingles that contain multiple layers of tabs. They are also called three-dimensional shingles.

Nail gun: a device that launches nails into wood or other materials. If the pressure on the gun is set too high, the nails could create holes in the shingles.

Non-prorated period: the span of time at the beginning of a warranty when 100 percent of the reasonable cost of labor and/or material to repair or replace the roof is covered by the warranty.

Pitch: the angle at which a roof slopes. A higher pitch means a steeper roof and a more difficult roofing job.

Power vent: a fan that projects out from the roof and expels heat and humidity from the attic; usually controlled by a thermostat and/or a humidistat. Power vents are becoming less common because of the increased popularity of ridge vents.

Prorated period: the span of time when only a portion of the repair or replacement cost will be covered by the warranty; begins when the non-prorated period expires. As more time elapses during the prorated period, the amount of money offered by the warranty will decrease.

Ridge: the highest external angle created by the intersection of two sloping roofing planes.

Ridge vent: an exhaust that runs along the length of the roof’s peak and provides ventilation. Ridge vents are overtaking power vents in popularity because of their higher efficiency.

Tab: the part of an asphalt shingle that remains exposed after getting installed on the roof. The tab is delineated by the cutouts.

Toe board: a wooden plank installed perpendicularly to the slope of the roof that helps prevent workers from falling. Toe boards should not be nailed directly to the shingle face.

Truss: the triangular structure that supports the weight of the roof and on which the decking is installed. Trusses are usually made from 2x4 lumber.

Underlayment: a layer of asphalt-saturated felt installed on top of the decking (but beneath the shingles). Since it is waterproof, it provides an extra layer of protection against leaks.

Valley: on a roof, the angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof faces. It provides for water runoff. Valleys are common areas for leaks, especially if the flashing is installed incorrectly.

Warranty period: the span of time during which the material and/or labor is guaranteed to a certain extent.

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